On This Veteran’s Day

From a Mom’s Heart

I knew the day would come. When we dropped off our precious son and daughter at USNA I knew the road that laid ahead but I did not know that it would come so quickly. Plebe year seemed to go on forever, but once that obstacle was overcome the rest of the journey seemed to fly by, and here we are.

In my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, I talk about training, no communication, deployments and more… The Fleet is fairly familiar yet unfamiliar territory. New things to learn as a parent and perhaps the biggest lesson is that the walls of Bancroft and the walls around the Yard no longer offer comfort and protection. While there, I knew where they were – even if I did not hear from them, I knew they were within the safety of the Academy. Now they are out in the open with their fellow sailors, standing in the gap to keep us safe. I also quickly found out that when a service member serves, their family also serves. When they deploy, we deploy too. And that can be unnerving but we move past our fears and carry on.

Our children follow in the footsteps of well-know heroes and giants as well as quiet heroes – think: the tomb of the unknown soldier and those that are not well-known or heard about – and the many service members and their families who give heartfelt service to our nation without pomp and circumstance. Yet they all have a job to do and each piece is integral to their mission. From the mess deck to the flight deck, each part is essential to the mission.

I met many of these sailors when I visited my oldest’s ship – the best experience of my life by far – except for raising my kids! Young and older, tirelessly enduring separation from families, loved ones, significant others, and all that they hold dear. In and out, one day after another, each day fusing with the next so that all aspects of time passing are lost. I remember hearing that while on deployment, the only sign of what day it was could be found in the menu… Tacos Tuesdays.

As I walked through the ship I marveled at these young people many of whom my former Mid was leading. They do their jobs so masterfully and with pride. Do they get in trouble? Yes! They are young, but by and by when it is time to get to work they buckle down and get the job done .

One of my bunk mates in the female enlisted quarters was signing up for another tour. Ten years in – daughter and pup at home in the care of her mother. Another deployment under her belt – nine months this time around – and eager to get home to see her child. I asked her why she did it – “I love it. It is hard though – I miss my daughter and my family. This may be the last one. I want to see her grow up – at least what is left of her childhood.” That was one of many young people I met during my “cruise” that are dutifully and sacrificially serving our nation.

One of my best friends is facing her husband’s fifth deployment in the Marine Corps. Another is going on their second. A good friend and mentor is going on her 15th deployment as a military parent. Listen to our podcast together here. And so it goes.

Military service members have less than stellar statistics – high rates of divorce, alcoholism, financial difficulty, and the VA is overwhelmed and often can’t offer what service members need. That needs to change. They have given us our best and they deserve our best in return! What can we do in our communities to help returning Vets? We can show our thanks by helping them to find jobs, by making sure that they and their families have what they need. The University of Notre Dame Club of Chicago has a Veterans Initiative Committee that helps Veterans to network and find civilian jobs. What can I do? What can we do? What can you do to help?

It’s our turn when they come home.

So on this Veteran’s Day, join me in thanking our men and women in the services – Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines. Thank you for giving us your best, for your sacrifice, for your time away from loved ones, for enduring and standing in the gap to keep us safe at home. For us at home, let’s get busy and involved in Veteran organizations to help them find jobs, get help, get re-acclimated to the civilian life they left behind to serve our nation. Now it is time to do out part!

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